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Glow in the Dark Paint – How to Use & How Long Does it Last?

If you are someone who indulges in occasional DIY or has a knack for interior designing, you must be familiar with glow-in-the-dark paint. On a technical level, this paint is also commonly referred to as luminous paint. Glow in paint is imparted due to phosphors, which give it that greenish tinge. This is mainly due to the presence of silver-activated zinc sulfide or doped strontium aluminate. Phosphors tend to store light energy and later emit it in the form of a glow. Now let us see how it works, usage and how long does glow in the dark paint last, etc.

What is Glow in Dark Paint?

One of the most common applications of this paint can be found as stick-on stars used in children’s rooms. Another application is glow-in-the-dark strips used to determine escape routes in airplanes. These days, you can find paint as part of many trinkets, décor items, and body and face paint components. paint has many other scientific properties as well. For example, it is often mixed with a thermal coating to act as a temperature grading mechanism. This is popularly known as phosphor thermometry.

How Does Glow in the Dark Paint Work?

Glow in dark paint is widely manufactured as two main types. First is backlight, in which UV light is absorbed and emitted at a lower wavelength. The latter one is a common luminous glow-in-the-dark option. Here, light absorbed is not immediately reflected. Rather it lasts over a steady stream of time. Long after the light source has been put off, paint continues to glow. In some cases, glow can last up to 12 hours, gradually fading over time. Let’s read in depth about how long does paint stay good.

How Long Does Glow in the Dark Paint Last?

  • This type of paint generally has a long shelf life compared to other variants. An unopened can of paint can last anywhere between 3 to 5 years. 
  • If you have taken care in priming and preparing surfaces, then paint lasts longer. Some cases have reported paint staying intact for around 12-15 years. 
  • The amount of time paint can glow depends on several factors, such as number of layers, UV exposure, and quality. glow can last anywhere between 1 hour to 12 hours. 
  • Apart from this, manufacturing can also determine the glow emitted. This can be mainly attributed to pigments and dyes being used. parts of phosphors being used per part of paint determine brightness of paint. 
  • Exposure to light determines the duration up to which your paint lasts. The longer exposure is done, the more glow will last. It is common for paint to last around 3-4 hours after being exposed to light for a sufficient amount of time. 
  • The amount of glow also depends on the type of light source that you are using. Artificial UV lights do not emit glow that natural sunlight can provide.

Things to Consider before Buying Phosphorescent Paint

  • The first thing to consider would be the size and scale of your project. larger surface area, more paint you would consume. You need to also keep in mind details. A small amount will suffice if you are going for finer details and glow options as only highlights. 
  • Next would be to keep in mind the finish for the surface. If your surface is rough, it would need more layers to stand out. For smoother surfaces, lesser amounts of paint will give an effective finish.
  • The application process often determines the type of paint you would use. For dabbing onto surfaces, a thick gloopy kind of paint might work. If you want to build on layers and add finer details, then a thin paint consistency works best.
  • Brands also matter a lot when it comes to paints. Every brand has its own unique formulation, which affects the final end product.
  • glow intensity can also be determined by the product you are purchasing. Some types provide a faint glow, while others provide intense ones.

How to Use these Luminous Paints?

Step 1: Shake Well Before Use

Most glow-in-the-dark paints are pigments suspended in an acrylic medium. So basically, the paint portion of it acts as glue. The first step to using any glow-in-the-dark type is to paint it to shake it well before using it. This will ensure that all particles are being dispersed evenly. Otherwise, it will result in an uneven application of pigment.

Step 2: Cleaning the Surface

These paints adhere better if they have a good surface to grip on. It is recommended first thoroughly to clean the surface. This can be followed by sanding it down to remove any surface defects and provide a better grip. Sometimes surfaces can also be made smooth using different types of mediums.

Step 3: Applying the Paint

The next step would be applying a base coat of color. It is important to remember that acrylic colors are quite dense. The kind of surface that you would be using should be able to bear this. Stretched canvas and plaster walls are a good option. However, avoid using printer paper or paperboard to try out the same. 

Step 4: Protecting the Surface

The last step would be to ensure that the painted surface is properly protected. You can do this by using sealants and varnishes. It is important to remember that these paints can flake off easily. Hence protecting the surface is a good idea. Also, over time, tiny dust and particles may attach to painted surfaces.

Tips and Tricks to Use Illuminating Paint

  1. Just one and two coats of paint will not cut it. If you are looking for a bright glow, experts suggest that you layer up paint. If you use paint with a dark background, it might get difficult to see. Hence putting in extra layers helps here too. technique is not to dabble on a thick coat directly. Using thin, watered-down layers creates a uniform consistency.
  2. While it might not always be possible to have a lighter color story, it is recommended to do so. This is because it reflects off most when used against a lighter background. Avoid using dark backgrounds as the glow effect will be significantly lesser.
  3. It is good not to dab on paint in copious amounts. This leaves for a very unfinished look with unwanted rough texture. glow also won’t be as good even if you use thick blobs of paint. intensity of glow is not determined by the amount you use in one go. Rather it is determined by layering.
  4. Brushstrokes on drying do not look very professional. Since glow-in-the-dark paints are very pale, it becomes difficult to see application of paint. One great way to do so is by using a UV light source on paint while it is still drying. You can see strokes when this is done.
  5. Give paint ample time to dry in between coats. It is suggested to leave paint dry for around 15-20 minutes in an arid room. If you add another layer before the previous one has fully dried, the finish gets ruined. The gloppy underlayer affects the smooth texture of the upper ones. 
  6. One easy way to create glow-in-the-dark stars would be to use a stippling effect. Instead of painstakingly drawing individual stars, this is a much faster process. This also makes the result look more realistic. You need a toothbrush or a toothpick to get this effect successfully. You can dip them in paint and randomly start painting stars.
  7. If you are looking for that extra glow, the best way to get it would be by charging your paint. You can do this by using a UV light source or a black light. After charging, you will notice that your paint shines much brighter than earlier.
  8. You just do not need to stick to using UV paint out of a tube. Many variants now come in a powder that you can mix with your paints. Experimenting with what works best is a great idea in this case.


What glows under black light?

If you are wondering what makes things glow in the dark, its Phosphor. Phosphors glow under black light. So, the things that contain these fluorescent molecules will glow and are visible under the black light.

Does glow in the dark wear out?

Yes, the glow in the dark wears out after a few hours. But if the objects are radiated by UV light, then glow will stay for longer time.

What colors glow in blacklight?

It is always better to go for the brightest neon color like Fluorescent green, yellow, blue, purple, pink, and orange which glows under black light.

How long does paint last in a can?

Paint in a opened and resealed can might last for over a decade, while in unopened can the paint last for up to 12 to 15 years.

How to make glow in the dark things glow more?

Just make sure to have a bright light instead of dim ones in your room where there are glow in the dark things. This helps them glow brighter at night/dark.


Glow in dark paints can be a wonderful way to bring some excitement into projects. You can experiment and have fun with paint across various mediums. You might want to add some special effects by adding glow in the dark paint for walls in bedroom. Or you might want to add some finishing touches to a painting. You can even try them on fabrics which are on high demand currently. Check out the best fabric paint that gives a long-lasting glow. For all these purposes, glow-in-the-dark paint can be a wonderful option. There is also a huge market for these paints, so you will find one that suits your requirements.